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August 28, 2013- Opinion by Steven E. Greer, MD
Last September, a 21-year-old actress was watching the sun rise at 5:00 AM in Hudson River Park (HRP), near Harrison Street south of and the newly built Pier 25, when she was brutally raped. The perpetrator was a 25-year-old homeless Level 3 sex offender, recently released from prison for prior assaults. The location of the crime was the nicest part of the HRP, recently renovated, near wealthy Tribeca and Battery Park City.
How did this happen? Where were the Park Enforcement Patrol officers (PEP)? They have numerous electric carts that should have allowed the PEP to constantly patrol the entire strip of the HRP.
Everyone associated with the HRP and the entity that manages it, the HRPT, are very vocal about the lack of funding being the cause for the Pier 40 decay and other problems of the park. They even tried to levy a new tax of residents near the park. But lack of funding does not explain why PEP inadequately patrol the park. The city provides park staff and they have patrol vehicles.
The PEP were on duty last September when the woman as raped. After 30 minutes of the assault taking place in daylight, the PEP eventually showed up and caught the felon. Some local news praised the officers as heroes.
Last week, this author was riding a Citi Bike along the bike path in HRPT at 10:00 PM, when I saw a nice red reflection onto the Hudson River of the W Hotel sign in New Jersey. I left the bike path north of Pier 40 near Christopher Street to snap a photo for BatteryPark.TV, and immediately realized that I had entered a dangerous scene. It was pitch dark, and under the trees and bushes were numerous figures doing drugs.
Ten months after Hurricane Sandy, there still are not even temporary lights in portions of the HRP. This is inexcusable of the city and the HRPT. Long strips of the park are havens for drug crime and open sex, often involving underage prostitutes.
Farther south, near West Thames Street, that portion of the park is still owned by the HRPT, yet no HRP PEP have patrolled there in years. The PEP assigned to, and paid for by, the BPCA also refuse to patrol “Tire Swing Park” and grass field due to a turf dispute, claiming it is the territory of the HRPT PEP and not their responsibility. As a direct result of this willful negligence, young adults are frequently found at night in the playground smoking pot. A mother and her son were violently robbed on the basketball court.
The HRP managers, led by CEO Madelyn Wils, have been utterly inept at controlling the city employee PEP officers. If the situation in the HRP is similar to the BPC PEP office, plenty of staff are on duty but not patrolling the parks. Instead, they do god knows what inside the office, or even leave the region to take breaks in Tribeca.
The HRPT certainly has the budget to provide for temporary lighting north of Pier 40. Only one or two PEP are required to at least drive an electric cart up and down the park. The current unsafe park situations are caused by incompetent parks management, not by a critical lack of funds.